As part of Hope for the Future’s ongoing climate lobbying research, we’ve been looking into key ways in which climate change messaging can be made more appealing to Labour Members of Parliament. Given that Labour MPs make up 247 of the 650 representatives in Parliament, this research is of vital importance. Though finding common ground is always essential, it is also helpful to remember, as our findings demonstrate, that very different factors may appeal to Labour MPs than to Conservative MPs. For instance, it easy to forget the simple but significant fact that Labour MPs currently form the opposition government, and so do not have the ear of the government to the same extent as Conservatives. This does not mean they are not valuable assets to the fight against climate change!
This project is currently only in the initial stages of research, but will shortly appear as another training course available to those wishing to learn more about working with Labour MPs on climate change. So far we have found three key areas to keep in mind when engaging with a Labour MP...
‘Social Justice Champions’
Labour MPs often report becoming interested in politics due to a desire to help the most disadvantaged in society. Indeed, the party’s history is one that has ‘always been about people. It was formed to give ordinary people a voice and has sought power in order to improve their lives’, with its crowning achievements being egalitarian projects such as the NHS and welfare state.
As such, most will want to be reassured that the measures needed to mitigate climate change will help- or at the very least not hinder- things for those already struggling in their constituencies. So, when talking about climate change to a Labour MP, they are likely to be concerned about factors including whether the green transition will lead to job losses in various industries? And subsequently, will there be provision for these people finding new jobs? Furthermore, affordability will factor significantly for Labour MPs, for instance, are measures to mitigate climate really affordable for working families in the constituency?
It is important to try and counter the twin notions that climate change policy will entail an unfair time and monetary burden for hard-working and struggling families, as well as that they will not directly those same vulnerable constituents. For instance the issue of fuel poverty. Green Alliance has found that UK homes are some of the least efficient in Europe. Rising energy bills and fuel poverty are a major concern and it is estimated that nearly 10,000 people a year in the UK suffer premature death due to cold homes. Technologies that aim to reduce the carbon emissions of homes have the added benefit of providing warm, comfortable homes for many more people. More information on fuel poverty can be found on our sie.
Try to communicate how climate change policy will both not harm the needs of those most vulnerable in society, and in fact, benefit them. Specifically the concept of a just transition, that aims to ensure ordinary people are not negatively affected by climate change policy.
‘Keeping it Local’
Our research has demonstrated that Labour MPs generally take a much more direct approach in representing the needs of their constituents. As such, they tend to follow the local needs and views of their constituents more closely, subsequently representing them more clearly in parliament. This is significant because Conservative MPs, in contrast, are often more comfortable championing causes that are less linked to local needs, such as climate change, giving them more flexibility in pursuing long term, larger scale, projects.
It is, therefore, an effective tactic to frame the issue of climate change by tackling local issues that affect local people directly. For instance, proposals to tackle air pollution in the constituency, particularly if schools or nurseries are located near to high-pollution areas. More information on this issue can be found on our website. Other ideas include gardening initiatives that could help to provide cheap, healthy food for locals or cycling and walking initiatives to improve public health. Furthermore, fuel poverty and lack of adequate housing can be tackled through low-carbon-emission housing projects, with the government often offering subsidies for such projects.
In essence, try and demonstrate how acting on climate change can benefit the most vulnerable people in their constituency in a palpable way.
Due to Labours social- justice roots, Labour MPs are often elected into areas of low socioeconomic attainment. Symptomatic of this is the fact that that Labour is most popular amongst voters in high-density urban areas who are renters (both social and private), earning less than £20,000 per annum, living in areas with a high risk of poverty, the unemployed and highly multicultural constituencies. As a result, in many cases, Labour MPs have a large amount of time-consuming casework, for instance helping constituents who have lost tenancies or that are having difficulties with government benefits, such as universal credit. Furthermore, and as previously mentioned, Labour, as the opposition party in government, don't have the same capacity as Conservative MPs to enact legislation.
These factors have to be considered when undertaking the lobbying of a Labour MP. Pushing for quick or significant acts on climate change may be counter-productive given the strain and time pressure Labour MPs are under, as well as practically speaking the MP having less power in government. Because of this, communications should be clear and concise, making a strong case for how climate policy can benefit the constituency in a realistic and achievable way.
Try to make sure to be patient and realistic by making recommendations for actions that are achievable and cost-effective. Express your empathy not only for the pressure the MP is under, but the lives of struggling constituents.
If you would like to be part of our ongoing research with Labour MPs or would like to find out more about the project, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.